This weekend I attended WisCon. I’ve been hearing about it for years, ever since I first went to Alpha when I was 18, but being a student has meant being more or less perpetually short on time and money. I just can’t afford to travel to conventions and pay for the hotel in addition to membership and feeding myself. However, this year, I was thrilled to realize that hey, WisCon is in Madison, and so am I! Another writer friend came up to stay with me for the con (Lauren, who has been blogging about the con herself), thus giving me the courage to actually go.
I’m horrendously shy, and tossing me into a situation where there are hundreds of people I don’t know and none I do is something that has never worked out well in the past. I try to go into any social situation armored with a friend. This time, for once in my life, friend armor was unnecessary. It was welcome, and there were certainly times when Lauren and I found ourselves on our own, but I would have been perfectly comfortable at this con interacting only with people I met at the con.
First up on Friday morning at the obscene hour of 9:00 was the writing workshop. I was incredibly impressed with the quality of my fellow writers’ stories, and the pro writer who headed our group, Vylar Kaftan, critiqued in a way that’s more or less perfect for me–bluntly and practically. I came away knowing exactly what needs to be done to my story in order to make it the story it should be, which is all you can ever ask for from a workshop. Something I especially admired about the WisCon workshop is that they scheduled mingling time for after the workshop was over. We headed over to a nearby coffee shop and proceeded to get to know one another personally in addition to through our writing. Theodora Goss made an appearance, and I shared with her the fact that she was my favorite Alpha instructor way back when, and we enthused about Alpha for a bit. And my WisCon social circle ballooned from there, aided also by the First WisCon Dinner specifically meant to introduce newcomers to other newcomers at the con.
I bumped into Cassie (a.k.a. Catherine) Krahe, who I’d met at Alpha, and she introduced me to Rachel Swirsky, who in turn introduced me to Ann Leckie, and suddenly I know two short fiction editors and writers who I have admired for years. Just like that, because WisCon is that kind of convention.
I was able to introduce myself to Sean Wallace, who has published my two stories at Fantasy Magazine (though I managed to continuously miss editor and writer extraordinaire Cat Rambo, which disappoints me!), and chat about writing for a while before being interrupted by author Sarah Monette, at whom I couldn’t resist briefly fangirling (if you haven’t read her Doctrine of Labyrinths series, do so at once!).
All that, and I haven’t even mentioned any of the amazing programming. Since I feel that this post has already gotten a little out of hand, I won’t go through everything, but two of my favorite events occurred late in the evenings, and I’m so glad I fought off con exhaustion and stuck around for them. The first was the Lightspeed Magazine launch on Saturday, where Vylar Kaftan, Alice Sola Kim, Cat Rambo, and Genevieve Valentine read stories that will be appearing in said magazine. All four stories were great, though my particular favorite, the one I couldn’t help but gush about to my friends, was Alice Sola Kim’s story about a man who has the misfortune of time traveling every time he sleeps, tied to his descendants. It was funny and thoughtful and sad. Sadly, I cannot for the life of me recall the title. Look for it in Lightspeed!
The second event was a workshop run by Cecilia Tan that tackled the question, “How do you get around the double-edged sword of needing to present realistically diverse stories and characters without being accused of appropriation?” The workshop was Sunday evening, and this one even started half an hour late because the guest of honor speeches and award ceremonies went well over time. I think it’s probably safe to say that the majority of the audience was exhausted. But it was a really great workshop: lively, fun, and useful, and I feel more secure about writing characters who aren’t young, white, able females like myself.
There are so many marvelous things that happened at WisCon that I’m not even mentioning here, because mentioning everything awesome about this con would take forever. Suffice to say that I sincerely doubt that any other con I ever attend will be able to compare to WisCon, and I anticipate returning year after year after year.